NOFA-NY Blog

Our blog is a great way to stay current on organic farming, gardening, certification, policy, and community information and issues that we regularly share. We help you stay on top of everything that relates to technical and practical organic farming and gardening, timely and important legislative policies, field days, conferences, consumer issues, and more.

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Free Health Screenings through NYCAMH at NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Free Health Screenings through NYCAMH at NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Editor’s note: this blog is a guest post written by Pauline Boyer at New York Center for Agriculture Medicine and Health, one of the organizations participating in NOFA-NY’s 2019 Winter Conference.

Farmers are a very busy group of people, and too often they put their own health on the back burner. New York Center for Agriculture Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) and Healthworks would like to remind us all to keep our health and safety at the front of our minds, no matter how hectic life can get.  

NYCAMH’s mission is to enhance agricultural and rural health by preventing and treating occupational injury and illness. NYCAMH promotes safe and healthy farming through workshops, on-farm trainings, tradeshows, and free and confidential surveys.

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Meet the 2018 Josh Levine Scholarship winners

Meet the 2018 Josh Levine Scholarship winners

We are so pleased to announce this year’s Josh Levine Scholarship winners: Mayda Pozantides and Anders Gunnersen.

Read about their urban farm and what they hope to experience at this weekend's Winter Conference. 

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Training Draft Horses for Farm Work

Training Draft Horses for Farm Work

Love the idea of training draft horses for farm work? Read this guest blog by Donn Hewes of Northland Sheep Dairy and www.teamsterschool.com in advance of his NOFA-NY Winter Conference workshop, "Training Draft Horses for Work," on Friday, Jan 19. Register for the conference and get your Early Bird discount by Friday, December 15!

"In the early morning mist you find your horses out on pasture. You are struck by how beautiful they are, but also surprised at how natural they are. Some are grazing, some are taking in the first rays of the sun, and still others stand on guard, watching for any threat; they are working like a wild band. It’s time for you to bring them into the barn to be harnessed for farming and forestry.             

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2018 Winter Conference Special Events

2018 Winter Conference Special Events

Now that registration is open for the Winter Conference, we wanted to share a couple of the exciting special events that will be coming your way!

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Healthy People, Healthy Planet: NOFA-NY’s 36th Annual Winter Conference

Healthy People, Healthy Planet: NOFA-NY’s 36th Annual Winter Conference

We’re so excited that our 36th annual Winter Conference —January 19-21, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, NY—is already up on our website and ready for you to reserve your spot, more than a month earlier than last year! This year’s theme, “Healthy People, Healthy Planet” focuses on the critical relationship between our agricultural health and the health of our planet. 

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Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is complete and we are in the processing stage. It was a whirlwind three days! As my first time at the conference as Executive Director, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of participants, the knowledge of the presenters, and the commitment by the NOFA-NY staff to make the conference successful! I was heartened by the true spirit of cooperation by the Saratoga Springs Hilton and City Center to work with us and ensure it ran as smoothly as possible. The food was outstanding, thanks to all our food donors and chefs. It all left me greatly inspired.

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The Josh Levine Memorial Scholarship

We are honored to share this blog by Scott Chaskey, farmer, poet, educator, and director of the Peconic Land Trust’s farm at Quail Hill. 

The wood waits, as if its most precious sap were stillness... (John Fowles)

Our first meeting is etched in my memory—that autumn when Josh Levine arrived at our farmshop in the beech woods, he was full of curiosity and passion for our community farm. Josh had an inherent tendency to dive into things: “How can I help…Can I volunteer today?”

 His enthusiasm, combined with an attention to detail, was  welcome, like a strong, fresh breeze off the Atlantic (a mile away  from Quail Hill Farm). He joined our team the following Spring, and those who met Josh on the farm and at the farmers’ market were  full of praise: he was energetic, committed, and he loved to  communicate about seedlings, plants, preparing food, caring for  the soil, and community agriculture.

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Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is right around the corner! What a positive way to usher in the New Year! January is a busy month with several NOFA conferences and the Presidential inauguration. You may be deciding whether or not to join the hustle and bustle in Washington, DC or enjoy the activities and festivities of the Winter Conference. For me, that is a very easy decision. The NOFA-NY Winter Conference will offer a range of discussions, workshops and entertainment that not only recognize the changing of the administration, but also arm you with a trove of information and connections to last far beyond the next 4 or 8 or even 12 years! 

CR Lawn Photo Credit Jo JosephsonSpeakers include the eminent CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds, NYS Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard A. Ball, and hundreds of experts in their fields. We will have workshops that improve skills to reduce tillage and increase the biodiversity of our soil. The Hands-on Horse-Powered Demonstration will expand the possibilities of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. A Friday Roundtable Discussion will prepare you for the upcoming Farm Bill and address issues important to the integrity of organics and the vitality of our farmers.

And, of course, the first ever NE Organic Seed Conference within the larger Winter Conference is small_NE_Organic_Seed_Conference_Logo_V.jpgpart of the movement to ensure that the biodiversity of our seeds is saved and protected for generations to come.

Our workshops and discussion groups will delve into what diversity of our farmers looks like. We have “Dismantling Racism” workshop led by Keith McHenry on Saturday morning, as well as discussion groups for women, veterans and LGBTQ farmers and advocates. We aim to recognize our divisions, bridge them, and honor our diversity. Stephen Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm will organize a teach-in (or two) for Farmers in Action to prepare for civil leadership in the coming months and years. We will be live streaming the events in Washington, DC so you can stay informed of what is happening in the nation’s capital.

NACL_Theatre.jpgAs far as entertainment, we are thrilled to have a special performance by the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL), a professional, non-profit company that has created more than 20 original ensemble theatre productions and countless public spectacles since 1997. During the breaks on Saturday at 10:15am and 2:45pm, the NACL Theatre will perform a stilt skit to honor crop and human diversity for a healthy world. Our thanks to NACL Artistic Director Tannis Kowalchuk for stepping in and up to make this happen. We also will have a lively Jam session for people to pick up their instrument of choice and find their voice to honor our rich assortment of musical backgrounds and interests.

To follow our theme, all of us at NOFA-NY hope that the halls of the Saratoga Hilton and City Center will be filled with a Diverse group of people committed to nurturing the Biodiversity found on our farms. You won’t want to miss this!

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Q&A with Tradd Cotter from Mushroom Mountain

We're so excited that Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain will be presenting three workshops at our NOFA-NY Winter Conference, Jan. 20-22. He was generous enough to do a Q&A with us, so read on...

NOFA-NY: What first drew you to mushrooms and what kept you on the mushroom path?

TC: Mushrooms are mysterious mythical entities that have a long history of cultural and ritual use, it's interesting to me how civilization has evolved to embrace the fungal kingdom and the amazing benefits of understanding how yeasts, molds and mushrooms can provide us with bread, beer and wine, and medicines. I was hired on a tour of a mushroom farm at 20 and have been hooked ever since. Everyday I wake up excited about what we are working on, anxious to see what new things I can learn from our research so I can find ways to develop beneficial uses or products that people really need.

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Announcing our Contest Winners!

We're excited to announce all the winners of our Eye on Ag Photo Contest and T-Shirt Design Contest!

The EYE ON AG OVERALL WINNER is Ruth Blackwell for her photo, "August" in the "At the Market" category. Ruth will receive a FREE conference registration and her photo will be featured in next year's promotional material.

EyeonAg photo winner 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Conference Inside Scoop: Q&A with Chef Dan Barber & Plant Breeding Geneticist Michael Mazourek

Conference Inside Scoop: Q&A with Chef Dan Barber & Plant Breeding Geneticist Michael Mazourek

We are abolutely thrilled to present this Q&A with Dan Barberchef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Cornell Plant Breeding Geneticist Michael Mazourek. Read this inside scoop prior to their special joint presentation at the first NE Organic Seed Conference, part of our NOFA-NY Winter Conference, January 20-22, 2017:

1. Please give us a little history of your work together, and what was the inspiration?

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 MICHAEL: I was invited to Blue Hill at Stone Barns  for dinner. I had heard it described by others as life  changing, but had no idea it was literal. Of course  the meal was great, but it also inspired me and gave  me the courage to embrace creativity with the  vegetables I was developing and explore  characteristics I valued but were not part of the  mainstream.

 DAN: After their meal Michael came into the    kitchen. I held up a butternut squash–our    bestselling workaday squash— and, half jokingly,    asked him if he could create a new variety with a    more intense squash flavor. (I asked him to shrink    the thing.) I’ll never forget his response. “It’s a funny    thing, or maybe a tragic/funny thing,” he said, “but in  all my years breeding new varieties, no one has ever  asked me to breed for flavor.” For me, as a chef, it    was a revelation. If the chef’s role is to pursue truly    great flavor, then we need to engage with the      people writing the recipes for our seeds. 

 

 2. What will be the main “take-aways” from  your special presentation? 

 MICHAEL: This next wave of development of cultivars for the Northeast are really just underway. We have the opportunity to really create new cultivars and market classes all our  own. 

 DAN: Chefs and eaters tend to think of seeds as a black and white issue—heirlooms over here,  Monsanto frankenfood over there. But there’s a whole spectrum that exists between those two —one that we’ve unfortunately neglected. For the future, we need to think not only about how  to advance a dynamic tradition of breeding and selection, but also about how to communicate that story to eaters and home cooks. 

 3. How do you think culinary trends get started and then catch on?

 DAN: I think we can look to chefs. That sounds self-promoting, but we’ve already seen chefs' ability to catalyze food trends that trickle down to every level of the food chain. If you look at the recent kale craze—which started on restaurant tables in New York and now has its own holiday—you see evidence of that influence. 

MICHAEL: It is the chefs. So we need to ask ourselves what trends can we spark? Can we partner to create trends that will support growers and sustainability and nutrition in our food system once they catch on? 

4. What do you believe is the future for chef-breeder collaboration?

DAN: I think we need to continue to blur the lines between chef, breeder and farmer. That means breeders who are willing to immerse themselves in the kitchen in order to better understand ingredients' culinary applications and potential; and it means chefs who are willing to educate themselves about agronomic challenges. How can we influence one another’s decisions in the field and the kitchen to maximize ecology, economy, and flavor?

MICHAEL: It’s expanding beyond reacting. Rather than a chef just developing dishes around new ingredients and breeders developing cultivars, there is the potential to co-design new plants for organic production. 

 5. Is there anything else that conference attendees should know or consider in advance of your presentation?

MICHAEL: We're excited for the First Northeast Organic Seed Conference!

NOTE: Dan and Michael will be presenting on Friday, January 20, the first day of our three-day conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. For more information and to register, go to: https://www.nofany.org/events-news/events/winter-conference

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GET YOUR CREATIVITY ON!

We know that our farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and NOFA-NY supporters are truly talented individuals. Now is the time to show us that creativity in a different way and have a chance to win a full Winter Conference registration!

Our two contests—our photography contest EYE on AG, and our Winter Conference commemorative T-Shirt Design contest—are already open. The entry deadline is November 4, so don’t wait. 

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Send in Your Proposals for our 2016 Field Days & 2017 Winter Conference by March 18

Green ideal energy copySeven questions is all it takes to submit your fabulous ideas for this year’s Field Days and the 2017 Winter Conference.

Our popular Winter Conference and On-Farm Field Days are known for their value, and the depth and breadth of what they provide.  As many of you already know, some of our best ideas for these events come from you. YOU know what you want to learn, see, and try; you know what’s important for the future of your farm.

 

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2016 NOFA-NY WINTER CONFERENCE: AN ORCHARD OF APPLES

static1.squarespace-1Apple lovers, apple likers and even those who are on the fence about apples will find a lot to like and a lot to learn at the NOFA-NY Winter Conferencestatic1.squarespace in Saratoga Springs from January 22-24, 2016.

On Friday, January 22, the fruit workshop track begins at 9 am with Benign Neglect: Orcharding on the Horizon, a 3-hour workshop by Know Your Roots encompassing organic, biodynamic and holistic approaches in the orchard. After lunch from 1:15-4:30 pm, Cider Making from Fruit to Sale surveys the craft cider business with segments on orchard design, variety selection, equipment, licensing, and market opportunities. Thanks to South Hill Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, and West Haven Farm.

feb9_13_0075Saturday afternoon from 3-4:15 pm features Cider: A Guided Tasting and Discussion of Cidermaking, a conversation with cider tasting on fruit selection, fermentation, blending & bottling and how these decisions affect flavor. Sunday from 9:30-10:45 am, Growing Good Fruit: Organic Insect and Disease Management is an opportunity to discuss apple pests and disease in New York. The highlight of this workshop will be an extended Q&A session to answer your questions on pest and disease management. You can send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or bring them with you to the workshop.

Not an apple fan? Fear not, there will also be sessions on U-Pick Organic Strawberries (Saturday, 8-9:15 am), Fruit Tree Planting and Establishment (Saturday, 9:30-10:45 am), and Fruits for Small Gardens (Saturday, 3-4:15 pm). There are a lot of learning opportunities in fruit at the conference this year.

It's not too late to register! Visit www.nofanyconference.org. We're taking registrations through January 15.
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WINTER CONFERENCE URBAN FARMING: Mushroom Cultivation Methods

Mushroom cultivation for food and medicine is a progressive and 10455698_779104102146445_223868833291702764_nexciting portion of the agricultural system. They can be an interesting niche and make for some added diversification in the ever-changing landscape of modern farming.

For the urban farmer with limited space, mushroom cultivation can be a profitable endeavor. From edible to medicinal, mushrooms can be cultivated in a number of ways and marketed from fresh to added-value products.

From 8 -9:15 am on Saturday's Urban Farming Track, join Olga Tzogas from Rochester NY’s Smugtown Mushrooms and learn direct methods of mushroom cultivation. web-SMUGTOWN-master

Learn how to set up a fruiting room, lab, and the appropriate mediums for a growing substrate. Olga will review the benefits and challenges of indoor cultivation and how immersing yourself within the community not only lends itself to direct sales, but helps strengthen community ties. In her words, “cultures around cultivation.”

imgresMore and more studies are proving the positive symbiosis between mushrooms and human health. Many of these fungi have been cultured and administered for millennia. Olga will demonstrate how Smugtown Mushrooms not only provides Rochester chefs with high-demand fresh mushrooms, she will also examine the potential of growing for medicinal markets.

Whether considering fungi for profit or to enjoy cultivation for personal use, this presentation will certainly lead you in right direction.
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Four Innovative Farmers Launch Friday Morning Conference Intensive

unnamed-3See how the power of community and individual ingenuity can be fused to make great tools for the farm and homestead. Kicking off the Gardening and Homesteading track at the upcoming Winter Conference, January 22-24, 2016 in Saratoga Springs is FarmHack, featuring four growers' perspectives.

Beginning at 9:00 am at this First Friday intensive, you’ll hear from Michael Cohen, a backyard grain grower discussing how he has repurposed and modified commonly available tools and devices to process his backyard grain.

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Daniel Grover will discuss horse-powered market gardening equipment, updating the old and modifying new.

Erik Fellenz, certified organic market farmer with welder & shop experience will share time-saving tools he has built for the pack shed and field.

unnamed-2Andy Fellenz, NOFA’s Organic Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator and farmer with son Erik, will discuss a Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farmer Grant project to build a high tunnel boom sprayer.  Chris Callahan—an Ag Engineer from the University of Vermont and FarmHack aficionado—will moderate and tie together the different strands.

Bring your questions and thoughts, and be prepared for a morning filled with new ideas and sharing!

 
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Grain coming into Focus: Long-standing New York traditional foods get their spotlight at last!

The OREI Value-Added Grains Project is a multi-year collaboration between NOFA-NY, Cornell University, Greenmarket, GrowNYC, OGRIN and others to grow the potential of primarily ancient and heritage cereal grains in New York and the Northeast.  Robert Perry, NOFA-NY's Grain and Field Crop Coordinator, and June Russell, Manager of Farm Inspections
& Strategic Development for Greenmarket/GrowNYC, share their thoughts about grains and the upcoming Grain Expo happening during the NOFA-NY Winter Conference.

Robert says,

"Who ever heard of spelt, einkorn, emmer, or farro until recent years? This, to many, was like another new food group being grown.  However, I grew up enjoying whole grain flours living near the New Hope water-powered flour mill. Leland Weed had resurrected the old mill and overshot water wheel and spent a lifetime providing bagged whole grain flours that my mother would bake into homemade bread and rolls every week. The mill was open for tours and photo opportunities and was famous for their Buckwheat pancake mixes. My Dad had a dairy farm and did custom harvesting of small grains with his various combines. Eventually we had three combines that my brothers and I operated as well. Riding on the old AC all crop bagging combine, sliding down the chute, and playing in the oat bin was all part of growing up. The coop was close by and everyone worked as a community to support the Grange and the GLF cooperative along with various milk coops. So when legendary music of the late 60's came along (“Traffic” and Steve Winwood’s “John Barleycorn Must Die”; Jethro Tull with “Same Old Man Workin at the Mill”)l I was already hooked on grains. Over the years various flour mills and bakeries have indulged in stone mills, whole grain bakeries, and legends have lived on, made with a labor of love, by farmers, millers, and bakers. After a silent yet persistent journey by this passionate community the grain movement has once again come into the local regional spotlight.Spelt berries

So when the idea of a Grain Expo came about for the NOFA-NY Winter Conference, coupled with selection of grain farmers
Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens as our Farmers of the Year, it was my privilege to combine this into a celebration of the legends, the present, and the future of the incredible Northeast Value-Added Grains community."

Same old man workin' at the mill
Mill turns around of its own free will
Hand in the hopper and the other in a sack
Ladies step forward and the gents fall back.

June responds and reflects,

"I am afraid my first encounter with a mill or anything having to do with the production of grain was much less pastoral then Robert’s and most surely involved a rickety building with a lovely river view that either had been renovated into a Ye Olde Tavern of some sort or sold Christmas ornaments and fudge to tourists. Mills were relics of the past and flour was probably made by Keebler elves, as I saw it. Even as someone who had worked as a professional cook for 15 years, I had no idea how grain grew or flour was produced.

Early on in the quest to find flour for Greenmarket bakers, I saw Jack Lazor give a workshop on growing grain in Vermont at a NOFA-VT conference. Jack told the story of being a back-to-the-lander in the 1970s and how he grew wheat to make his own bread, but when he went to sell his crop he found that even the local Vermont co-op was buying grains and flour from the Midwest for half the price and he was laughed out the door. He said it was only now, decades later, that he was finally seeing interest in the market for his grain and he quipped, “I think we’re making progress”. (Editor's note: Jack and his wife Anne will be presenting twice, and participating in a panel at the Grains Expo at the Conference)

This was circa 2007--a full thirty years or more after Jack and many of our elders were planting those first seeds. And it was true the market was finally catching up to the wisdom of farmers like Jack.  By 2008 the local foods movement kicked into full gear along with an explosion of artisanal food businesses guided by passionate and innovative entrepreneurs who embraced working with local ingredients with gusto.  We met essential allies and co-creators who were and are making incredible products for us to eat and drink from bread to beer, pasta to gin all using local grains …and supporting our farmers. By 2010, when Greenmarket implemented its 15% rule, the market was primed, the customer was ready and a few dozen farmers were willing to take the risk and begin the steep learning curve of growing, handling and marketing local grains.
Roggenvollkornbrot1The momentum is real, from Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes, The Hudson Valley to Maine, mills have been built, or put back into production; malt houses and distilleries have come on line; and support for re-regionalizing our food system is coming from all directions including the state of New York, which has given us the farm brewery and farm distillery legislation that is helping to drive grain production and much needed research and development of infrastructure.

It has been an incredible time to be a part of this work; rewarding and profound in ways I never could have anticipated. Back in the early 90’s while working for Greenpeace, a good friend and mentor said to me, “there should be a still in every county”. I think he was getting at a message about sustainability on a fundamental level, about feeding the soil, the animals and our selves in ways that align with our values, bringing full circle the agriculture, the market and the food culture in a way that just might have a shot at sustaining us in the long run.

Now as another malting facility opens, another bakery incorporates local flour into production and another small batch distillery using local grains wins an award for excellence, I know what that mentor meant. And although I am pretty sure he would love the taste of the bourbons that our craft distillers are producing, he would be especially proud of what this community has accomplished, and the hope for the future that it signifies.

You can join in the fun and education on Friday January 23rd. 2015.  In the morning, there's a Value-Added grain intensive with Klaas and Mary-Howell, followed by lunch with various grain-focused vendors, and a grain forum with legendary farmers, millers, bakers, brewers, distillers, researchers and you. Beyond the expo, there will be a total of 7 workshops for grain and field crop farmers, a homesteaders' session on earthen oven cooking projects (Saturday afternoon), Klaas and Mary-Howell's keynote address on Saturday afternoon, and an abundance of tasty treats made with New York's grains.

Pre-registration ends on Friday, January 16th (walk-in registration starts at 7:00pm on Thursday, January 22nd).  Registration for Friday of the conference allows you entrance to the grain expo, plus all workshops and activities.  See www.nofanyconference.org for all the information!

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The Story of Our Conference Food

This is a re-telling of the story of how our conference food program came to be. It is dedicated, in gratitude, to our wonderful conference food donors.  Read on for the tale of the NOFA-NY conference meals, as told by Bethany Wallis (Education Director, Conference Food Coordinator).  If you're inspired to help us meet our menu wishlist, please be in touch!

Amazing food is the underlying pillar of NOFA-NY’s Annual Winter Conference. True, it's not the first thing that might come to mind when you hear "farming conference," but maybe it should be.  Yes, each year a new theme is chosen for our beloved winter conference and our staff works tirelessly to put together education around that theme that informs and represents our organic farming community.  This ever-changing and constantly-evolving conference is a venue for new research to be shared, farming techniques to emerge, friendships to begin, collaborations to blossom, and families to grow.  The constant is evident: this conference exists because everyone in attendance seeks to support the growth, distribution, and enjoyment of delicious, wholesome food grown in a way that supports the environment and the people who toil to bring it to the masses.

[caption id="attachment_408" align="aligncenter" width="676"] While many conferences offer delicious food, the NOFA-NY conference food stands apart because the ingredients provided for all of the meals, breaks, and social gatherings is sourced organically and locally, almost all donated by our farmers and business supporters.


I first came to NOFA-NY as a volunteer to assist in procuring the food for the winter conference many years ago when the conference was still held in Syracuse and boasted an attendance of over 300 farmers.  It was the best way to be introduced to the greater organic community of New York State.  Then and now, the generosity with which people are willing to donate is unbelievable.  Farmers in our midst wholeheartedly want to share the products they know are the healthiest available--making their actions speak for their ideals.  They care deeply that the food they grow and produce can be enjoyed while participating in an event that helps to strengthen the organic community.

child at buffet John-Paul Sliva 007

I am excited to once again be organizing the food donations for this great conference.  Each year, over 1200 attendees walk through the door, ready for 80+ amazing workshops, engaging keynote speakers, and plenty of social activities.  They're hungry, too.  This year we will feed over 7200 meals, provide snacks for more than 900 people on Friday and Sunday and 1300 on Saturday, make sure that the 500 folks who attend our receptions also have munchables while they network.dining hall

That is no small feat with a farmer’s appetite!  The kitchen and service staff at the City Center often stand in the dining room, amazed at the way the crowd (respectfully, patiently) descends upon the trays of roasted vegetables and salad just as much as the heartier foods--we know about balanced and abundant plates!  Curious as to how many potatoes it takes to feed this hungry bunch? 500 pounds! Milk?  Only 125 gallons.  Then there are eggs (600 dozen, so get crackin’) and over $3000 worth of locally baked bread.  Everything is donated from the salt and pepper on the table to the transportation of the donated products from across the state.  The list goes on.

city center kitchen scene 2

buffet line with green veg

It is an intense experience to find all the needed items based on the menu and to confirm all the donations.  For example, if in late November we have 5 of 6 main ingredients to make a roasted pork dish, but we're missing the meat, we have to decide whether to change the menu and use the 5 procurable ingredients in a different way, or to keep looking for organic, local pork.  We are so fortunate that the Saratoga Hilton and Chef Vik are so willing to work with us to make all of these meals possible without compromising our community's values.  From September forward there is almost daily communication to nail down all the bits and pieces.

City Center Kitchen CrewOnce we arrive on site, everything is different than the norm of hotel food management.  The food is not pre-prepared for the kitchen staff, and sometimes comes in very close to meal time.  How quickly can one staff peel butternut squash before it needs to go in the oven?  The kitchen and service staff is involved in listing all the donors and ingredients in the dishes on the buffet line; I'm behind the scenes with key volunteers checking off and labeling deliveries, ensuring that snacks and products are left in their packages so folks associate farms and brands with the delicious food they're eating and reminding kitchen staff to please NOT peel the carrots and to let the artisan cheeses come to the right temperature before serving (do not serve our Board President's famous cheese at refrigerator temperature!).  We are for certain an interesting group!

I would personally like to thank each person in this amazing circle of food for a feast.  Thank you to the farmers, to the transporters, to the preparers, to the servers, and to the educators who keep us coming back every year to learn more, fueled by such delicious food!  I manage the intensity of this job because I am so rewarded to see how we unite in the love of food, in our support of each other, and in our commitment to work today for a better tomorrow for our ever-growing community.

[caption id="attachment_405" align="aligncenter" width="676"]DSC_0054 NOFA-NY Winter Conference Breakfasts are a hearty, healthy affair. Roasted potatoes, organic fruit including citrus from Thorpes Organic Farm citrus grove in Florida, meat, yogurt, granola, and milk!
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A Collection of Farmers' Passions and Projects

This time of year, I have the privilege to read about so many farmers' hopes and dreams, and their thirst for education.  I read these testimonials as part of the NOFA-NY Winter Conference scholarship application decision-making process.  We read each application fully, multiple times with multiple criteria in mind.  We hear from people exploring the idea of farming to seasoned farmers who know how much farmer-to-farmer education means to their farm's success.  In light of the approaching scholarship award deadline (Midnight on 12/1/14), I'd like to share a few quotes that remind me of the passion and projects that farmers share willingly, in hopes of receiving one of our scholarships.

When asked what you hoped to get out of attending the conference, you answers were along these lines:

"I have one season of farming under my belt. Most of what I have learned has been by trial and error. I hope to gain as much knowledge as I can from those with far more experience so I can make this upcoming season a success. I also hope to meet other farmers in my same situation to see what steps they have taken to get to where they are and the steps they plan to take to get them to where they want to be. Being a novice, my book is full of blank pages. I would like to start filling up those pages with useful information. There is so much I want to learn but do not know where to start. I thought this would be a good place!" -2013 applicant

"Being able to exchange ideas about different growing practices with other organic farmers. Specifically looking for a better cover crop rotation for my farm. Want to learn more about the expanded marketing venues available to us for local retail and wholesale sales. Want to learn more about saving our own seed. Want to learn more about how our farm can help new farmers become established." -2014 applicant

It's so interesting to find out what people identify as their short- and long-term goals in the moment they apply for a scholarship--these goals are in flux each year, so this really shows the mindset of a farmer.  These goals range from lifestyle aspirations to technical specifications:

"I would like to expand the farm to six acres and acquire another good market. Eventually I would like to install a commercial kitchen where my sister in law can make prepared meals for value added production. I am planning at least two more acres of fruit trees and small fruit to round out the farm stand. I am very curious about primocane raspberries in combination with movable high tunnels. Eventually, I would like to have a mixed marketing strategy with some direct sales and some wholesale accounts. I see no reason to have a vow of poverty with this life based on the farmers I have been exposed to." -2013 applicant

"In the short term, I will continue to work on farms with vegetable CSAs, continue to gain machinery skills, attend workshops, CRAFTs, conferences, classes, etc. to learn and to meet other farmers. I am also looking for land to lease and potentially buy. On my future land, I will run a vegetable and herb farm that utilizes sustainable and organic agricultural practices while managing the space that is not cultivated for wildlife conservation." -2014 applicant

"I want to raise Certified Organic pastured poultry including ducks, and Certified Organic berry crops. I want to work towards the absolute minimal use of fossil fuel inputs. On-farm composting of poultry manure, bedding and ecologically sound composting of poultry carcasses. I want to bring to the customer a healthy, earth-friendly, superior tasting product at a fair price. I want to maintain the natural aesthetic of my property, while moving towards farming as my full-time passion." -2013 applicant

"[Our farm] is a small family operated fruit and vegetable farm. We sell our products at farmers markets and to farmers market vendors. This year we are leasing land across the road and expanding to offer a CSA harvest share. We are currently Certified Naturally Grown but hope to complete the organic certification process this year or next. We are still only field farming but hope to have infrastructure, such as a high tunnel or greenhouse, in a few years that will facilitate our desire to be year round farmers in upstate New York. We love farming and we love the farming life-growing healthy food for us and for others." -2014 applicantLuke and Cara inspecting window

And while some things show up in almost every application (and are probably on every farmer's mind), I love seeing the interesting combinations when we ask farmers what three topics they are most interested in learning about at the conference.  For the 2014 conference, that elicited these responses:

  • "farm business planning, soil science, compost"

  • "Food Safety, Cover Crops, Sustainable Financial Planning for the Farm"

  • "Small-scale farming, how to address food insecurity, and value-added production"

  • "grains, pigs, and business sense"


No, copying these answers won't guarantee you a scholarship.  But I hope that reading these inspires any potential applicant and ALL our community to evaluate where they are, and where they're going, and how farmer-to-farmer education can play a role in that.  Each attendee at our conference adds to its value, whether an eager learner, a presenter, a trade show participant, or someone involved behind the scenes with NOFA-NY.  You each contribute to the greatness of New York (and Northeast) organic agriculture when you open your ears and minds to information during workshops, when you fill pages of notebook paper with ideas and contact information, and when you bring your energy to the larger group for a few days each year.

YayForFarming_ErinBullock

No matter if you apply for a scholarship, I hope you participate in this year's conference.  Here are a few things to remember:

Apply for a winter conference scholarship by 11:59pm EST on December 1st

You may contribute to our NOFA-NY scholarship funds when you register yourself for the conference!
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